THERE WILL BE SPOILERS - AND READING REACTIONS FROM OTHERS CAN BIAS FOLK - SO FIRST READ THE STORY AT
This is an amazingly powerful story. How does LP grab and hold so hard when the tone is itself very Sunday Time Art Review: My Visit to the Bearclaw Piece? I wish I knew, but I am as enthralled as the audience, and as uncertain what will come next, what the work means, where it will end...
The Performance Artist by Lettie Prell
This isn't the kind of drawing in that relaxes, it's intense and visceral to read. The responses of the audience have echo in my own thoughts, approving or disapproving, or when realising that playing is itself a violation. At points I felt the story physically, in tension winding so tight it created a knot of sickness.
Sometimes stories that pile worse on worse can slip and suddenly you're laughing at the absurdity, at the sad attempt to make you afraid for words on the page -- no slip here. The questions the audiences choose, their involvement in testing and taking apart her words, her identity, once she's shed her body... ring utterly true and understandable, and also subtly unforgivable. At the end, where she has again taken a body (of her own creation) and destroys it, the words 'It looks so vulnerable' grabbed my heart and stopped it. I don't know if the chip is undamaged and contains her still -- neither I think do the audience, complacent of that in their appreciation of the show, of the depersoning of the artist -- but it does feel like a public suicide. An artistic suicide at the very least -- where her art has been compared to the art she might have made and been found wanting.
It's... so simple and so very complicated.
And I don't feel it's an accident that we hear about the death of her mother more than once. Not the worst sadness in her life, but just that she mentions it as surprising that it wasn't the worst...
Writers talk, and sometimes they say things like 'writing isn't a performance art' -- because you edit, you change, you correct. (But of course the performance artist plans. Their editing is done before the performance. ) This story is performance art -- it speaks in the moment, it can't be put aside and picked up, it unfolds before your startled eyes and says things about you, about audiences, about art, and artists, and what makes a human being human.
And leaves you with more than you can just say.
I don't know if I want to remember it forever, or bury it deep where it can't come back to haunt me.